As I write this, in freezing Delhi, the Raisina Dialogue, 5th edition, is currently ending. Now for those who aren’t sure what this is, let me explain.
Every year since 2016, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank, get together to host foreign ministers from all over the world in wide-ranging discussions on co-operation in international policy matters and similar gobbledygook.
The Prime Minister inaugurates it, the foreign ministers of more countries than ever have flocked in this time, and the entire bureaucracy and its wife is in attendance. In other words, this is the big cheez itself.
This year, the theme of the Raisina Dialogue is “Navigating the Alpha Century” and much hope has been expressed that much will emerge from it. After all, from what I glean, it is clear that India’s relationships with the countries that attend on a host of issues challenging the sub-continent will probably be formed here.
One of the people attending was (because by the time this appears, it will be over) our own, brand new Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat. Smartly turned out as usual (was that his new “superchief of the forces” uniform), belligerency on show in a face looking more and more like a cross between Labrador and Rottweiler, he pointed out nations that “sponsor terror”, urging other countries to isolate them. He said we should do as America did, “they said, let’s go on a spree against the global war on terrorists”.
It obviously escaped his eagle eye that the Americans are trying desperately to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, 20 years after the “spree” began, and that it has cost them $6 trillion so far. But then, perhaps General Rawat knows how to carry out a cut rate war against global terror, given the average national yen for jugaad.
Then he went on to say that perhaps Kashmiri children should be put into special camps to deradicalise them. That is, I assume, if they can be considered radicalised at the age of six or seven years. After all, the soldiers guarding Kashmir’s “normalcy” for them right now have carried out plenty of running battles with children, even using pellets against them.
It is obscene that Rawat should have even thought fit to say this in such a public forum, and in the days to come, there will be a wave of criticism against him and the government.
But it is shuddersome to think that a man such as him, so completely tone-deaf to popular feeling and the basic proprieties, should be given such an important position.
It is more than enough that Kashmiris have been suffering from a suspension of communications, including of telecom and the internet for the past five months. It is heart-breaking that children have been missing school and perhaps, driving families mad as they struggle to answer why they cannot be allowed out.
It is sobering to imagine what exactly the ordinary Kashmiri must be going through, and there is no end in sight. The Supreme Court has declared depriving people of the internet is tantamount to a human rights violation. Unfortunately, it expects the depriving agency to do something to correct the situation. And now comes this inhuman suggestion.
Who is going to decide which child is radicalised? The Army, which cannot even look to the physical and psychological needs of its own soldiers? Bureaucrats and politicians? The police? Rawat himself? I am well aware that there is little chance that even an attempt will be made to implement such a stupid, extreme, hare-brained idea. But he has expressed it, and revealed the vileneness of his thinking.
The sooner we see the back of this odious man, the better.